The red-hot Steelers will play host to the ice-cold Bears on Monday Night Football to cap off week nine.
Pittsburgh has won three in a row while Chicago will look to end a three-game slide. The teams’ seasons have gone in completely different directions after the Steelers got out to a 1-3 start and the Bears were 3-2.
Here are some things to watch that could determine the outcome of tonight’s game.
The Steelers organization has long been built on defense and this year is no different.
Pittsburgh ranks eighth in points allowed per game and 11th in total defense on the year. While they do not excel at limiting yardage, they are 13th in rushing defense and 14th in passing defense, they are great at limiting scoring. Pittsburgh has allowed just 19, 20 and 10 points during their winning streak and no more than 27 all year. In all four of their wins, they have held opponents to 20 points or less.
The main area that Pittsburgh keeps teams off the board is in the red zone. The Steelers are second in red zone defense this year, allowing teams to score on just 47.6% of red zone possessions. They are ninth in third-down defense, so they do a very good job getting off the field.
The defense limiting opponents has taken pressure off a struggling offense. Ben Roethlisberger is on his last leg and the offense has floundered because of it. The Steelers are averaging just 5.1 yards per play which is 26th in the league and are dead last in rushing offense.
Their struggles through the air have allowed defenses to zone in on the running game and rookie running back Najee Harris has struggled. The first-round pick is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry and only has three touchdowns this season. The Steelers will need to get him going in the second half of the season to help jump start an average offense.
The Steelers are currently winning with defense, which is nothing new for the Steel Curtain. They will get a chance to feast on Monday night against a struggling rookie quarterback.
Can The Rookie Get It Going?
It has been a rough start to life in the Windy City for Justin Fields. The rookie from Ohio State is playing behind a dismal offensive line that has offered him no protection.
While there have been flashes, they have been few and far between. The concern for Bears fans is that Fields’s inability to overcome the offensive line despite his exceptional mobility. He has eclipsed 200 yards just once (209 against the Lions) which was also the only game he averaged more than 6.5 yards per attempt.
— NFL (@NFL) October 31, 2021
He has yet to throw multiple touchdowns in a game and has gone just two starts without an interception. In total, he has three touchdowns and seven interceptions on the year. Fields is averaging just 123.9 yards per game, which is dead last among quarterbacks with at least six starts. He has also been sacked 26 times including four times each in the last three games.
The good news is the Bears may have found something last week with Fields in the running game. Fields carried the ball 10 times for 103 yards and an electrifying touchdown on fourth down. He also completed 70.4% of his passes, but for just 175 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Fields still have to prove that he can move the ball through the air on a consistent basis. He has left a lot to be desired through six starts and is struggling as much, if not more, than any rookie quarterback this season.
It will not get any easier for him tonight as he takes on a very tough Pittsburgh defense. Coverage of the Steelers and Bears begins on ESPN 98.1 FM 850 AM WRUF at 7:30 p.m.